a stick-thing

So I’m taking my walk, working out plot issues, being all serious in my head, and I see this old Ford F150 pickup start to pull out of a driveway ahead of me. As I approach, an old guy in the driver’s seat rolls down his window. He’s got to be maybe 75-80 years old. I figure he’s lost or something, going to ask me directions.

So I slow down and take off my sunglasses. People are less nervous if they can see your eyes. You take off your sunglasses and you seem more trustworthy and honest. It’s stupid, but there it is. Anyway, I take off my sunglasses and the old guy leans out and says, “I’m going to give you a free pen.”

And he hands me an ink pen. Which I accept, because what else are you gonna do? Then he pulls out another pen and this stick-thing, with grooves on it and a sort of propeller on the end. He says, “I made one of these for my brother when he was trying to quit smoking. You rub the pen along the ridges and it makes it spin.” And he demonstrates. He rubs the pen vigorously along the ridges and sure enough, the propeller spins.

“Very cool,” I say. Because, again, what else are you gonna do? Also, because I’m starting to like this guy. He’s having so much fun making the propeller spin. He tells me “You have to rub it at on the angle, and if you rub the other angle, it spins the other way.” And again, he demonstrates. Sure enough, it spins the other way.

The stick-thing.

The stick-thing and the ink pen.

He hands me the stick and says, “You do it.” So I do. When the propeller starts to spin, I realize I’m making a mistake, so I fumble with it a bit. “Show me again,” I ask him.

And he laughs and does. First one angle, then the other. “You have to apply pressure,” he tells me. “Try it again.”

This time I make it work, which pleases him enormously. “You look like you could use two,” he says, and reaches for another stick-thing. He’s got maybe five or six in the other seat of the pickup. I tell him one is enough, on account of I’m taking a walk.

“What do you call it?” I ask him. He shrugs and says “It’s just a stick-thing I make.”

Then I ask if I can take his photo. “No no,” he says, “no no nonono, you don’t want my picture.” I tell him I really would like his photo. But he just shakes his head and laughs and rolls up the window. So I wave and he pulls out of the driveway and I continue my walk.

14 thoughts on “a stick-thing

    • I must have cut an absurd figure on the last part of my walk — a grown man walking down the sidewalk carrying a stick-thing with a propeller on one end.


  1. OK, now I want one. Sounds cool.

    And I always take my sunglasses off when I first meet someone too. Feel the same way as you described.

    I’m glad you asked to take his photo, though. The whole time I was reading, I was thinking “I hope Greg took his portrait.” Oh well. I met so many interesting people when I did my 100 Strangers portrait project.


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